Simon & Schuster, 304 pages, $26
This book has been nominated for the 2014 Edgar award for Best Novel.
The unfathomable universe has sent a murdering alien to Earth. For our own good, you understand. We don’t, at this stage in time, deserve immortality, instant teleportation, freedom from pain and fear, or even the last package of potato chips on the last day of the apocalypse. All of that (with the exception of the potato chip bit) will be possible with the solution of the elusive 165-year-old mathematical puzzle known as the Riemann hypothesis, an implication that there is way to determine which numbers are prime numbers. Andrew Martin, late of Cambridge, England, successfully produced the equation. That is why he had to die. And more human deaths may follow.
Vonnadoria, for some reason, has appointed itself the guardian of the universe. It is in their interest to keep humans away from the rest of the universe. We are full of pretty awful and cluttery things, like emotions, food, smells, protuberances (mostly noses), and illogic. Can you imagine letting something like that loose on the cosmos?
But the unnamed (because it has no name) alien sent to Earth to exterminate, exterminate, exterminate* has taken Andrew Martin’s form and family. His secondary mission is to learn about humans, and he takes that to heart, one of which he has acquired thanks to Andrew Martin’s physiognomy. As his days on Earth accumulate, he reads Emily Dickinson, listens to The Beach Boys, drinks Australian wine, watches Fellini films, and finds himself slowly becoming less Vonnadorian and more human. Quel disaster! Especially in light of his primary mission, to kill Martin’s wife and son.
The Humans is a funny, thoughtful, and poignant look at ourselves. The book’s mission is to celebrate what makes us human, even if we ultimately must pay the price for being a collection of unpredictably predictable individuals.
* Courtesy of those dastardly "Dr. Who" nemeses, the Daleks.